By: Brendan McDaniel
At the beginning of the month, a YouTuber by the username of ContraPoints (legal name Natalie Wynn) found herself in a bit of hot water on Twitter. In a thread discussing the practice of including preferred gender pronouns when one introduces themselves, Wynn vented some frustrations she had based on her experiences in more left-leaning circles as a trans woman.
The original post made a joke about how this practice was commonly adopted by cisgender people in response to the presence of someone they knew to be openly trans or nonbinary in an attempt to avoid misgendering them and make them feel more welcome.
The original poster and Wynn mentioned that the practice occasionally had the opposite effect, on account of the fact that a group making a noticeable and often very awkward change in their behavior in the presence of an individual they felt was inherently not like them isn’t exactly how to make someone feel welcome in said group; quite literally, it becomes a situation where the trans or nonbinary person may be lead to feel othered, meaning they are recognized as trans or nonbinary before being recognized as an individual. Wynn herself remarks that “it’s good for people who use they/them only and want only gender-neutral language. But it comes at the minor expense of semi-passable transes like me and that’s super f****** hard for us.”
“But Brendan!” I hear you ask. “Where’s the not quite news? This was a month ago, and even then, that’s a pretty uninteresting statement Wynn made!”
First of all, yes, I can read your mind, anonymous reader, who I absolutely didn’t make up for the sake of a rhetorical tool. I have, in fact, spent so much time on the Internet that my mind has assimilated into the connected network of all human knowledge, and I now possess powerful psychic abilities beyond mortal comprehension. Fear me.
And second of all, Ms. Wynn’s statement did manage to cause a fair deal of controversy. A very vocal portion of her fanbase, and of left-leaning Twitter in general, found her statements to be dismissive of nonbinary people and took it to mean that she is opposed to the existence of nonbinary people or that she is minimizing their struggles.
As a result, Wynn received a good deal of backlash to the point where she voluntarily suspended her own Twitter account and brought it back under a social media manager; a change, given that Wynn had previously been running the account for ContraPoints herself. So what exactly happened here? Ms. Wynn had temporarily, or at least, was unsuccessfully intended to be, “cancelled.”
Being “cancelled” refers to a celebrity of some description receiving a great deal of backlash for certain statements or actions that is similar in theory and practice to a boycott.
However, instead of refusing to buy products or use services from the group being boycotted, a person who is cancelled will see significantly less public attention and be more often discredited as a result of their connection to the actions and statements that got them cancelled in the first place.
In some cases, cancelling can be a good thing; for example, if you were the sort of person prone to boiling large cultural movements down in terms of Internet slang, like a moron would do, you could describe the #MeToo movement as “cancelling” people who have abused their positions of power to sexually assault women and force them into compliance with their abhorrent behavior.
Although I would argue that doing so trivializes the actual impact and significance of #MeToo, it does get across the general idea of what canceling someone looks like.
THAT BEING SAID:
I don’t like the practice of “canceling” people, or of the “Cancel Culture” that promotes the practice. Cancel Culture is sudden, punitive, and relies on people jumping on the bandwagon of canceling somebody as quickly as possible to have the greatest effect, then ignoring the cancelled individual whenever they appear in the future.
While some people absolutely should be cancelled, as I agreed above, Cancel Culture isn’t truly concerned with whether a person deserves to be cancelled or not. In the case of Ms. Wynn, she had been cancelled so quickly that the larger discussion of if her statements really were derogatory to nonbinary people or not, and what they actually imply about her views, never happened before canceling her.
In fact, as far as I’ve seen, it still hasn’t happened; she made a statement on Twitter when she revealed her new social media manager, and everyone else sort of forgot about the whole thing. Though the conversation around Wynn was often called discourse, much of it was less focused on analyzing the statements she made and more about explaining why or why not a person would agree to cancel Wynn.
Cancel Culture, in my mind, is a practice that trivializes serious issues and often defers good-faith discussion of a controversial issue in favor of casting simplistic Good/Bad judgments on people without regard for the consequences of that judgment.